Degree Granting Department
James F. Strange, Ph.D.
Paul G. Schneider, Ph.D.
Michael J. Decker, Ph.D.
theology, philosophy, politics, patristic, medieval
The theology of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and the origin of his theory of Just War are subjects of serious scholarly debate. Just War involved the use of the state army to eliminate heresy by killing heretics who refused to convert to mainstream Christianity. The purpose of this paper is to argue that Augustine primarily based his theory of Just War on Cicero's own theory of Just War.
Augustine was quite heavily influenced by Cicero. He credited Cicero with his own conversion to Christianity. He drew heavily from Cicero's works as a basis for many of his own writings, such as City of God. He did, however, interpret Cicero's works to fit into his own theology, thereby changing the meanings of these works significantly. Cicero was adapted to fit into Augustine's Christian and Neoplatonic mold.
Cicero wrote a work called The Republic, which was lost for centuries. The only way any of this work survived during that time was through quotations by writers, and Augustine is one of the main sources for Cicero's Republic. In The Republic, Cicero creates the model state and argues that this state had the right to use military action on a group of people who were not capable of exercising justice. This influenced Augustine to develop his own theory of the perfect state, which also had this right to use military action.
Several factors influenced the development of Augustine's Just War theory. However, none of them had the impact that Cicero's theory of Just War did. Everything was fitted into it. Augustine assimilated the influences of the church-state alliance and his Neoplatonic background into Cicero's concepts for the perfect state and its use of Just War. Thus, Cicero provided the framework within which Augustine operated.
Scholar Commons Citation
Neste, Berit Van, "Cicero and St. Augustine's Just War Theory: Classical Influences on a Christian Idea" (2006). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.